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Worried about memory loss? Pick up your Dancing Shoes!

Are you concerned about forgetfulness or memory loss as you age?

You are not alone! According to the AARP the number one concern of 94% of baby boomers is “staying sharp.”

There is a good reason for this fear, the world health organization has identified cognitive decline as one of the biggest health threats in old age, with more than 47 million people worldwide diagnosed with dementia.

Here is good news. It is a myth that there is nothing you can do to prevent dementia or that dementia is a normal part of aging!

Here is something that will get you moving and thinking. Aerobic dance exercise can keep you smart and snappy!

Recognizing the tremendous benefits dance and music can have in improving cognition, coordination, balance and functional strength local physical therapists at GroupHab are integrating dance with physical therapy treatment and programing.

GroupHab Physical Therapy and Wellness in Simpsonville SC has created an innovative and nationally recognized senior wellness program containing small group exercise classes using music, dance, functional strengthening, and balance training. In addition, they routinely use music and dance in PT treatment for balance, fall prevention, and functional strengthening.

Why include aerobic dance in physical therapy wellness programming? Aerobic exercise will improve your brain health! How will it do this? Aerobic exercise will increase the heart rate thus improving the blood flow and oxygen to the brain. In addition, aerobics will reduce potential dementia risk factors, like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

With the abundance of studies supporting the mental health benefits of aerobic exercise researcher are now asking what type of aerobic exercise is best? Dancing has been found to be the optimal exercise for improving brain health! It is theorized that the optimal time to challenge the brain cognitively is when there is an increase in oxygen to the brain1 Exactly what happens with dancing.

A recent study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience “Dancing or Fitness Sport? The Effects of Two Training Programs on Hippocampal Plasticity and Balance Abilities in Healthy Seniors” has found dance classes can prevent and reverse some signs of aging in the brain! The 18- month study looked at seniors with an average age of 68 and placed them in either a group challenged with dance routines or a group challenged with repetitive endurance exercise such as cycling.1

The dance routines contained many challenges and changes every session including changes in steps, arm patterns, speeds, choreograph and genres.1

The older adults who participated dance exercise experienced an increase in the hippocampus volume as well as an improvement in their balance. This is very significant because the hippocampus is the earliest and most severely affected brain structure in individuals with dementia. It is a brain area that is responsible for not only memory and learning but also for keeping one's balance.1

How does dancing make you smarter? According to psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Coyle of the Harvard Medical School who has extensively studied dance and brain health, dancing enhances neuroplasticity by forcing the brain to rewire its neural pathways.2 The mental exercise required in the quick decision making of dancing facilitates new neural pathways and synapses that make the transmission of information faster and better.

As we get older, it is harder to remember things because brain cells waste away, and pathways and neural synapses take become much weaker.2 Novel and challenging activities like dancing will stimulate development of new pathways so if one pathway becomes lost due to age, you can have an alternative path ready to take its place.2

Frequent use and novel challenges cause the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex to rewire and consequently improve.2 These dance activities also help improve mental capacity since the cognitive processes are tested in many ways while dancing. The result is the speed at which your brain responds to challenges will improve, thus keeping you “sharp”.

Who knew that keeping your brain sharp could be fun!! Try a GroupHab Physical Therapy and Wellness class today!

GroupHab® is an innovative, cost-effective, and pioneering delivery of medical fitness wellness care designed by a physical therapist incorporating PT treatment concepts, principles, and theory into group exercise classes specifically for individuals managing chronic conditions.

1. K.Rehfel, P. Muller, N. Aye, et al. Dancing or Fitness Sport? The Effects of Two Training Programs on Hippocampal Plasticity and Balance Abilities in Healthy Seniors. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2017.

2. Gottlieb, Scott. "Mental activity may help prevent dementia." BMJ: British Medical Journal 326.7404 (2003): 1418.

3. J. Verghese, A. LeValley, C. Derby, G. Kuslansky, M. Katz, C. Hall, H. Buschke, R. B. Lipton. Leisure activities and the risk of mild cognitive impairment in the elderly. Neurology Mar 2006, 66 (6) 821-827

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